Sheridan, Johnson Counties Tourism Up

The numbers are in for local tourism in Johnson and Sheridan Counties. Hannah Stepenoff has more.

The Wyoming Office of Tourism recently released a county-by-county report on tourism statistics across the state, and the prognosis is good for both Johnson and Sheridan Counties.

Buffalo Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Angela Jarvis said that tourism is on the rise in Buffalo and surrounding areas.

One reason is the popular event, Longmire Days, which is a festival that is based on local author Craig Johnson's novel series that has spawned an internationally popular television series. The event brought in 5,000 people in 2013, and she expects that number to swell this year.

Around 18,500 tourists checked into the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce on Main Street and the visitor's center on Hart Street in 2013—an increase of over one thousand from the over 17,000 visitors in 2012.

People may be passing through to other destinations, but when they stay in town, she said, those are tourism dollars that the city can count on. In August 2013, the city was up $5,000 in lodging taxes.
According to Jarvis, when that number is divided by the average hotel rate—around $100 per night--it equals out to an increase of over 2,500 rooms in one month.

Executive Director for Sheridan Travel & Tourism Office Shawn Buckley said tourism season is already under way, and though those at the office take into account visitor check-ins, he finds the lodging tax is more indicative of the growth of the tourism industry in the area.

The visitor's center brings in around 100,000 check-ins a year since 2007, he said, and and funds from lodging taxes have been on the rise over the past few years.

He said that roughly 60 percent of Sheridan's yearly budget is based on what the city brings in from tourism. Employment related to the tourism in the Sheridan area, is steadily increasing as well, according to statistics found in the tourism report.

In Sheridan, jobs in fields related to tourism have increased in from 980 jobs in 2012 to 1040 jobs in 2013.

Both Jarvis and Buckley said that the future of tourism will be focused on tapping into foreign markets.

Jarvis said the chamber has been spending the past few years working on bringing in those international markets. One of their most recent endeavors is developing bus tours marketed to foreigners who visit the area.

Both directors said they feel optimistic that with the boost from international tourism, this upswing will increase in the coming years.

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